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Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates

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Monthly Update - February 2009

Tabernamontana aff. vanheurckii (Apocynaceae)

As the rains continue to bombard us and water levels continue to rise, it has been a tough month to gather any momentum but the enforced breaks for the weather have meant even more enthusiasm when we have been able to get out in the field and as usual there is plenty to look back on and report. Our plant and bird lists continue to grow, the completion of a new enclosure in the rescue centre has come at a crucial time, a series of new lectures, a trip to work at Palma Real and much more have quickly filled this, the shortest month of the year.

Baby Margay

Now many of you are probably thinking that I favour our bird monitoring study in these monthly updates as it nearly always get a mention but this is not the case. Our staff and volunteers spend hours every week collecting data and updating our records as we need as much information as possible for the reserve and the annual report I must provide every year. This is obviously fundamental to our work here in the Amazon but, in conjunction with our mist nets, it has lead us to create an outstanding list and really demonstrate the biodiversity of the reserve. In a recent report published by the government, Reserva Ecologica Taricaya, was listed as having the greatest number of birds in the area. At the time we had recorded 379 species, one more than our nearest challenger had registered in a reserve of close to 10,000 hectares! Now our list contains 406 species and every time we find a new species it is very special as you will understand that it becomes harder to discover new species the more you have registered already. This high biodiversity is also a tribute to all the work we perform around the reserve as the animals now feel that their habitat is safe and undoubtedly many individuals/species have returned to the area after the negative impact caused by the illegal extractors before our arrival. This month was exciting as we registered three new species: Purple-throated Euphonia (Euphonia chloroctica), Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) and Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo latipterus).


Our botany lists also continue to grow and will so do constantly over the coming months as it is a new investigation. We now total 21 species of fungus, 14 species of ferns and 145 species of angiosperms. With every walk there seems to be something new to identify and photograph. We are also starting to monitor certain transects and establishing reproductive cycles so plenty to look forward to in the future.

The animal research centre is taking a lot of our time also as we try to standardise new protocols, improve diets and plan releases for the coming months. It would appear that the dead-ends we were finding towards the end of last year have been removed and we are hoping that next month we can release our pair of South American coatis (Nasua nasua). This will enable us to move around some of our residents and free up the now crowded quarantine area. The pressure will also be relieved by the completion of a new enclosure. A generous donation from en ex-volunteer allowed us to bring this project forward and there will be a re-shuffle over the coming weeks as we re-accommodate the animals in freshly refurbished cages. Another excellent acquisition has been a nutrition database used in American zoos and Raul and I have been re-evaluating the animal's diets to maximise their recovery rates. This coupled with new blood work we are performing is allowing us to identify problems with the newer animals and adjust their diets accordingly. Already it has proved invaluable with the two young spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth) as were able to detect the early stages of anaemia and protein deficiency which might have been fatal had we not picked up on it now. However, I have some sad news as one of our five older spider monkeys died very suddenly. The necropsy revealed a completely destroyed liver and whilst it was impossible to detect this condition it served to bring home just how sick some of these animals really are when they come to us. Such deaths are hard to take but it also fuels our determination and the sense of total satisfaction when we release healthy residents back into their natural habitat having nursed them back to health.

Storm Coming in!

It was also time to head back down to the Ese-Eja community of Palma Real and finish the agro-forestry project we have been working on over the last few months. Having taken and planted several different types of plant on previous trips, it was time to clear and plant the control line. This will be a base to calculate the success of our other transects and on a rare sunny day we headed off early to avoid the worst heat of the day. Nonetheless it was incredibly hot and as fate had it we had to cut through thick stands of prickly bamboo inhabited by more than a few species of ant and wasp, both of which are more than happy to bite and sting. Still we were not beaten and after several hours and a few blisters later we had finished the 80m transect complete with Brazil nut saplings, mahogany stakes, palms, bananas and pineapples.

Those of you that have been with us at Taricaya will have been accustomed to the weekly lectures and of course the famous caiman hunt. Now we are in a position of luxury with so many specialists on our team that we are able to give presentations and talks on a wide range of subjects and our new collective list of lectures covers every group of animals and plants. Not only is it fascinating to listen to experts talk about their passions but the advances in our research and the constantly changing dynamics of the scientific community means that there is always something new to discuss.

March will see us busy as ever and I am sure there will be plenty to report as ever so until then...

Stuart Timson
Conservation Director
Projects Abroad
1st March 2009

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